Theme Song: Violins. Lots of violins.
Interesting Dated References: People helping people. People in charge arguing with each other about who will get to help people in need. Courage.
Best Line: “If the weather would have held off for even one more hour yesterday, we could have gotten him off.”
Social Context: High Ice doesn’t really have a social context. It’s not the true story of a courageous rescue; it’s not a remarkable, true story of survival. It’s not even a good made-up story of rescue and/or survival.
It’s just a made-for-TV movie that was somehow re-edited to put a boob in it, then released in theaters in countries like Egypt and China.
Summary: It would seem High Ice came along as part of the late-70s disaster movie fever, but it’s not really about a disaster. It’s packaged like one, the title makes you think it would be one, but it’s not. High Ice is a 90+ minute movie about the attempts to rescue three people stuck on a mountain. Three people! And they call in the army, mountain patrol, etc. They even use missiles! Three people!
In the opening scenes, we meet our band of happy icy rock climbers. The leader is this overacting Scott (played by James Richardson who died in a skiing accident a few years after this movie was filmed). Apparently Scott likes to force his hobbies on his girlfriend because he dragged her along even though she’s drastically unprepared.
So Scott, whose hair is perfect, brings his non-experienced girlfriend and two other experienced climbers on this mountain-climbing trip. There’s an avalanche, and the other man in the group dies. That leaves Scott, his girlfriend, and some bandana-woman, with whom Steve appears to have sexual tension. They decide to try to climb back down the mountain, and while doing so, Scott entrusts his girlfriend to throw him the only bag of tools they have across a big gap.
She throws the entire bag of climbing tools off the edge of the cliff. Scott flips out and yells a lot more. Around that same time, some American Indian ranger stereotypes find Scott’s car and start shining lights at the mountain. Scott and his group huddle together on a ledge as night falls.
The U.S. Army comes out to look for Scott and his team. Two helicopters for three people! One is flown by Black Guy, and the other by Mexican Guy. As Mexican Guy lowers a winch rope to rescue the group, he repeatedly tells Scott to not, “ … grab at the device until it is on the ledge,” yet Scott immediately jumps and grabs it. This pulls the helicopter into the wall of the mountain, which causes a giant explosion and the death of the pilot. Way to go, Scott!
Suddenly we are taken to a lovely kitchen where the (at the time) soon-to-die David Janssen is eating breakfast with his daughter and her son. If you don’t know or remember, David Janssen was one of those older actors with that chiseled face (think Coburn or Nolte). He was in the original The Fugitive series. It’s also common knowledge he drank alot and possibly drank himself to death. High Ice happened to catch him on his way out the door. He died within a year of completing this at age 48. He’s much older looking, and I don’t think it’s just because he looks like the Gorton’s Fisherman™.
Janssen plays “Mac,” the professional mountain climbing ranger. He thinks he can save Scott the Idiot, but meets much resistance from the army lieutenant who is in charge of operations. They argue in a ski lodge for hours about the weather and wind. In the meantime, Scott goes crazy from hypothermia. The lieutenant agrees to fly Mac and his buds to the top so they can repel down to the stranded group.
On the way, Mac falls and gets wedged into a small little vagina-like mountain pocket and remains trapped and wincing until the end of the movie when he freezes to death.
So with Mac trapped, the helicopter pilot attempts a daring rescue of the group by landing on the small ledge. Guess who is first to jump into the helicopter? Scott. Then Bandana-Chick. Then the wind picks up and they leave the girlfriend who threw away the climbing gear.
Wind hampers the rescue of the girlfriend, so Mac, still wedged in the mountain-vagina, wraps a rope around himself and lowers it to the girl on the ledge. He swings it left to right with her attached. Then she catches some other rope and is saved. Then everyone leaves Mac because of, “high ice.” They actually say that.
In the morning they go to rescue Mac, but he’s dead because of “high ice.” Everyone acts sad
Poster and Box Art: The box summary for this movie throws the word “epic” around just about as much as annoying people do on the internet these days. Apparently even before getting co-opted by assholes who post comments on the internet, the word “epic” never really had any meaning at all. The poster for High Ice looks adventurous and disastrous. There are explosions, people in peril, people grimacing, and helicopters. Oh, and don’t forget the people in love in the lower left.
One thing to note about the posters: Since High Ice got a foreign theatrical release, it looks like they took the original art and re-painted it for the foreign poster. You see this a lot with non-European foreign posters. I think it’s funny. This guy did pretty good job of nailing the original.
Availability: You can buy an overpriced, used VHS on Amazon if you really feel you need it.